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Sports, Entertainment, Culture, and Convention District FAQs

The creation of a Sports, Entertainment, Culture and Convention District is a generational opportunity to revitalize and reimagine a vital area of downtown that is lagging and in need of modernization. Ultimately, the district would provide a destination for Utahns and visitors alike to gather, linger, and discover the treasures that exist in that section of our capital city. It will create an even more inspiring, compelling, connected, and successful downtown core where people come to live, work, meet, and play.

Frequently Asked Questions

NHL Hockey came to Utah much faster than anticipated. Most believed the deal to be four years out. During the legislative session earlier this year, the state signed SB 272 into law. This legislation requires a participation agreement between Salt Lake City and Smith Entertainment Group (SEG) to be struck by September 1st – hence the urgency. While the fast pace brings about challenges, it also results in a positive economic benefit to the region that is immediate.

Salt Lake County owns and operates the Salt Palace Convention Center, and through contracts with ASM Global and Visit Salt Lake, manages the county’s visitor economy.  Additionally, it is the owner and operator of downtown’s arts venues including Abravanel Hall and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA). Salt Lake County taxpayers, as well as tourism taxes, support Abravanel Hall, UMOCA, and the Utah Symphony and Opera operations. 

The benefit to the public is two-fold: a revitalized and vibrant downtown, and an economic boost that will increase jobs and tax revenue.  

The creation of a Sports, Entertainment, Culture, and Convention District (SECC) is a generational opportunity to revitalize and reimagine a vital area downtown that is lagging and in need of modernization. Ultimately, the district will provide a destination for Utahns and visitors alike to gather, linger, and discover the treasures that exist in that section of our capital city. 

Building the district will create an array of new jobs and opportunities for local residents, Utahns, and small and large Utah companies. Housing will also be incorporated into the district – which also means more opportunities for businesses.

People coming into the area for games, events at UMOCA or Abravanel Hall, or conventions at the Salt Palace will also eat, shop and recreate, adding to the tax base. Increased tax base provides needed resources for Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County to provide essential services, including public safety, road construction, Meals on Wheels, and other essential services.

Redesign of the Salt Palace will increase the number of conventions, all of which add to the economic vitality of Salt Lake City and County and support local businesses.

With both professional teams remaining downtown, the public will benefit through a variety of offerings through the Utah Jazz and Utah Hockey: workforce training and development, career fairs, high school job shadowing, college internship opportunities, youth athletic programs, and more. In addition, thousands of basketball and hockey tickets will be donated annually to underprivileged youth.

The district will enhance the overall aesthetic and beautification of the downtown area, create better connectivity and walkability, and add parking – all current pain points of the downtown core. The district will offer a variety of public gathering spaces including three plazas, as well as more shopping, dining, concerts, recreation, and festivals.

Downtown currently lacks a master plan in the three-block area that includes the Delta Center, Japanese Churches, Salt Palace Convention Center, UMOCA, and Abravanel Hall. The isolation of each space and the lack of foot traffic does not benefit any of these assets. By renovating and creating a district that connects, reimagines, and reorients these sites, we will open and activate the area and ensure each facility's long-term viability. We will unite the space with other downtown areas and assets as well, including businesses, City Creek Center, and Temple Square.  

The SECC District provides an opportunity to renovate and modernize the Salt Palace Convention Center. These changes will allow Visit Salt Lake to attract more conventions, resulting in an estimated $85 million annually in additional economic impact and additional tax revenue. The economic impact of the visitor economy in Salt Lake County equates to nearly $1,800 in tax relief for each household within Salt Lake County and that number will only increase with the additional conventions and tourism a renovated Salt Palace and revitalized downtown will attract. With the recent addition of the Hyatt property downtown, the future district would be one of the most desirable, unique, and successful convention districts in the nation and would increase revenue to the region by the hundreds of millions.

Salt Palace Convention Center visitors have injected over $600 million out-of-state dollars into the Salt Lake economy per year. The direct visitor spend in the region is $5 billion annually and hotel sales tax provides over $10.6 million in tax revenue to Salt Lake City. We can expand on this success by a modernization and right-sizing of the venue made possible due to this generational opportunity. 

The Salt Palace is need of key updates to attract more conventions. The tourism industry has shifted dramatically since the COVID pandemic, with smaller conventions becoming the norm. The renovation and modernization of the space, decreasing over-built exhibit hall space and adding a ballroom, has been a goal of Salt Lake County, ASM Global and Visit Salt Lake since the pandemic. This would enhance the ability to host two separate conventions at the same time, leading to a significant expansion of revenue and an increase in hotel room bookings. An additional ballroom would enable Visit Salt Lake to attract 95% of certain groups they are currently limited in booking. 

Smith Entertainment Group, Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake County have been collaborating with the Japanese Church of Christ and Japanese Buddhist Temple and there are no plans to alter the churches. The two communities have expressed an interest in being part of the district and discussions are ongoing regarding ways to enhance the community and pay respect to the earlier era of Japantown.

Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony and Opera, is a Salt Lake County facility. If revenue can be obtained through state and philanthropic support, it will remain on the southwest corner of South Temple and West Temple, either as a renovated facility or rebuilt.

Abravanel Hall opened in 1979 and has a lengthy and impressive history, as it has supported the highly acclaimed Utah Symphony and Opera for 45 years. 

The challenge with the Hall as it relates to the SECC is its direction. The concept of a functional and inviting plaza that connects City Creek Center to the east and the Delta Center to the west, is cut off by the positioning of the Hall which is situated north to south. By rebuilding and repositioning a new hall that runs east to west, the Hall can be better integrated into the plaza, benefiting the flow of the overall area and visitors to the Hall itself.  

A recently completed Abravanel Hall master plan revealed needed updates that include ADA compliance, a new heating and cooling system, modern acoustics, new seating, fire safety, and expanded space. Read more in the question below.

Estimates of renovating or rebuilding the hall are similar. It is anticipated that a rebuilt or remodeled hall would cost approximately $200 - 250 million. 

In 2022, Salt Lake County, in coordination with the Utah Symphony and Opera, initiated a master plan to examine the needs of Abravanel Hall. Over the course of the past two years county staff has worked with a consulting firm (Sparano + Mooney Architecture) to engage Abravanel Hall stakeholders including the Utah Symphony staff, musicians, and board to pull together a list of needed and desired changes, modifications and updates for the Symphony Hall. Given the Hall’s age of 45 years, there are needs that have developed due to an aging facility.

Key takeaways from the Abravanel Master Plan:

  1. Accessibility issues. The building is not in compliance with current ADA standards. However, because of its age, it is grandfathered in and exempt. Any substantive structural changes will negate this grandfathering and trigger the need to become compliant, which will substantially increase the price tag associated with most of the modifications and upgrades requested by the symphony.

  2. Heating and cooling. One of the most expensive modifications is the need for a new HVAC system (heating and cooling). This failing system collectively services Abravanel Hall, The Salt Palace, and UMOCA. The total cost for replacement is estimated to be around $80 million, of which 25% is attributable to components housed within Abravanel Hall ($20 million). While it is technically possible to make improvements to one section of the system without touching the rest, it is inadvisable.

  3. Modern acoustics. Analysis demonstrates the acoustics at Abravanel Hall are strong but not perfect. The Hall’s programming is increasingly trending towards non-traditional performances such as live music over film screenings, live comedy, and other multimedia functions. When it was built in 1975 the architects did not have these shows in mind. As a result, every time one of these is booked, staff must contract with an outside vendor to make temporary acoustical modifications. This exercise is expensive and cuts down on the number of performances they can afford to put on each year. The master plan recommends that the Hall be renovated to make this equipment a permanent fixture—which will not have a detrimental impact on the Hall’s traditional acoustics.

  4. New seating. Near the top of the list for performers and patrons alike is a desire for new seating. Abravanel Hall does not have middle aisles breaking apart the seating, space for those with wheelchairs to adequately experience the venue, nor does it have what most would consider comfortable seats. Making changes to the seating would be a considerable structural change and would trigger the need to bring the building into ADA compliance, which significantly skyrockets the cost.

  5. Fire safety. Abravanel Hall does not have a fire suppression system throughout the building. This obviously poses a great danger to both the Hall as well as its patrons and staff.

  6. Expanded space. Among the symphony’s list of requests is the addition of square footage to both the lobby and back of house. The back of house is ill configured for efficient loading and unloading and is not in full compliance with current ADA & OCEA safety standards. Additionally, the symphony has requested more dressing rooms, meeting space, and rehearsal space to better meet their needs. The requested square footage for the lobby will improve the patron experience, improve circulation for loading and unloading, and enhance lobby accessibility as well as accommodate accessibility in the concert hall by creating physical space for its expansion.

All in, the entire list of renovations identified in the master plan exceeds $200 million.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has asked the Salt Palace’s architects and engineers to develop a renovation option that incorporates the current Abravanel Hall into the Sports, Entertainment, Culture and Convention District. This option, and that of a rebuild, would require funds be raised. Mayor Wilson will rely on data, cost, Symphony and philanthropist interest, impacts to the SECC District, legacy and history, and community input before making a recommendation to the Salt Lake County Council on the Hall’s future. Following the decision, the symphony staff, board and musicians, philanthropists, county and city leadership and the public will engage in a process to realize the next phase of Abravanel Hall. Regardless, Mayor Wilson will recommend to the County Council that the name, Abravanel Hall, remain.